John Cleese, founder member of seminal British comedy group Monty Python, has said that they were “early targets” of cancel culture.
Cleese was speaking with The Sunday Times about his new GB News chat show “The Dinosaur Hour,” which has an episode on cancel culture. Monty Python’s 1979 film “Life of Brian” caused a furore when it released among some members of the Christian community.
“You could say that we were early targets of cancel culture,” Cleese“People don’t like to have their cherished ideas punctured or questioned. We all love to live in our own closed systems of thought, to be surrounded by people who think a bit like us. This is what happens on the internet too, where you get these blasted echo chambers. It’s why comedy is even more important today as a way of pricking those bubbles, opening them up, letting in fresh air. It is good for all of us. The problem is that cutting-edge comedy becomes difficult if a joke that transgresses someone’s idea of good taste means that the comedian is banned for life. It subverts the creative impulse.”
When asked whether the comedy he was famous for, which peaked in the 1970s and 1980s, would work in today’s times, Cleese said: “The trick with creativity is to understand that it is not a talent, it’s a frame of mind. You have to get away from fear and doubt. You have to get into a place of playfulness and curiosity so that you can find connections and push boundaries. Cancel culture tends to make people less broad in their thinking, more literal-minded. It is tougher to make funny — or intellectually interesting — associations. In cultural terms, it is dangerous. I’m so old I am not bothered about getting canceled. But as a young man, starting out, it might be different.”
On “The Dinosaur Hour,” Cleese said: “KGB News came to me with the best offer I’ve ever had from a TV company. Normally, you have these executives who think they know more about comedy than you do, who tell you what they think is funny. It is like an accountant telling a novelist how to write a plot. But they said, ‘Make 10 programs and you can do exactly what you want,’ which is remarkable. I know that a lot of people have it in for GB News and, to be fair, I don’t agree with the opinions of some of its presenters.”
“I have had carte blanche to say what I want and to be as silly or as serious as I want. We may even do a second series,” Cleese added.
U.K. media regulator Ofcom‘s broadcast standards investigation into GB News has found the channel to be in breach of its impartiality rules. The channel has given a platform to former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which Cleese says he “can hardly believe.”